TO Jazz Review: Medeski, Martin & Wood, Nathan Phillips, June 27

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Toronto – Medeski, Martin & Wood, hereafter referred to as MMW, played Nathan Phillips square last Saturday night. This New York-based band skirts the line between jazz and electronica, with elements of hip-hop and rock beats thrown in for good measure. Having MMW play the jazz festival is a great nod towards the contemporarization of jazz. This is a music that continues to evolve. While bringing in the new blood may alienate the old guard, it’s a worthwhile and necessary sacrifice to ensure that the music stays relevant.

The atmospheric vibes that MMW produce has given them a veritable stoner entourage. This was apparent at the beginning of the show when I thought someone had turned on a smoke machine near the front of the stage.

I heard a few grumbles of surprise from the traditional jazz fans when they saw the sheer number of youths standing in the front and obstructing their view. But youths want to groove and the jazz festival demonstrated good judgement by clearing chairs for a dance floor. It was put to good use, as there were certainly moments when many in the crowd were getting their groove on.

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The atmospheric vibes that MMW produce has given them a veritable stoner entourage. This was apparent at the beginning of the show when I thought someone had turned on a smoke machine near the front of the stage. However, MMW’s is often struck with intellectual moments where they stray far enough from their reassuring beats that they’ll never quite have a Phish-like entourage.

MMW is a very capable band. They can sound like whatever they want to sound like. At one point they were playing some beautiful quasi-traditional jazz. At another point they were pounding back a straight-ahead rock beat. But it was the intellectual landscape moments where MMW was far enough from the beaten path that had the crowd perplexed. The youths couldn’t groove, and the old-guard had a hard time identifying with jazz meets contemporary music. In other words: MMW knows how to be crowd-pleasing, but they don’t always give the crowd what they want. I think some equations are in order:

Rock Beat + Airy Jazz Improvisation = Happy Stoners

Hard-to-Identify Beats + Intellectually-challenging Jazz Fusion = Confused Stoners

So while I’m glad that the jazz festival is keeping things fresh with bands like MMW, this particular show didn’t have the oomph I was hoping it would.

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Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival

One Response to TO Jazz Review: Medeski, Martin & Wood, Nathan Phillips, June 27

  1. Pingback: CD Review: Radiolarians III, Medeski, Martin & Wood | The Panic Manual

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